Honolulu, the capital and largest city of the Hawaiian Islands, is a modern city, but, because of its location, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and because of its heritage, that of a South Pacific Island culture, it possesses sights that are relatively unusual and thoroughly interesting. Check out my favorites and look for the photo album to follow.
1. Enjoy Waikiki Beach – This is one of the most famous beaches in the world, lined with high-rise hotels and populated with surfers and sun-worshippers. Stroll along the beach, marveling at the profile of Diamond Head (see below) and soaking the perpetual sunshine while wading through the warm waters. Stop in at the distinctive, pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel, an institution for over eighty (80) years.
2. Diamond Head State Park – At the end of Waikiki Beach, the remains of this now dormant volcano dominates the skyline. At the state park, visitors are allowed to climb from the bottom of the crater to its rim, following a path that is well-worn but steep in parts. Note also that several sections of the trail traverse fairly long, dark tunnels, so flashlights are a must. The view from the top is breath-taking!
3. Pearl Harbor – An excursion to the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor is an absolute requirement for any visit to the island of Oahu. The somber spectacle of the USS Arizona Memorial is a vivid reminder of the horror of December 7, 1941, the "Day of Infamy" for the United States, when it was attacked by surprise by Japanese bombers, an event which launched the country into the midst of World War II. A visit to the memorial is incredibly moving, especially when one sees the oil from the sunken battleship still rising to the surface and when one realizes that the wreck is also a tomb for the many victims of the attack.
4. Hanauma Bay – This short excursion from the city allows visitors to experience the wonder of a coral reef only a few feet from shore. Snorkeling gear is available for rent after a brief orientation film which stresses the vulnerability of the reef and the necessity to preserve its unique environment.
5. Iolani Palace – America’s only "royal" palace is right in the middle of town, near the state capitol building. This was the residence of the Hawaiian kings and queens until the end of the monarchy in 1893.
6. Take a Scenic Drive Along the Pali Highway – Route 61 leads north out of the city into the mountains. Take this highway which travels by the Punchbowl ( The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific) to the Pali Overlook, the Nu’Uanu Pali State Wayside, for a dramatic and glorious view of the northern part of the island. Historically, this was also the location of King Kamehameha’s decisive victory which finally unified the islands under a single ruler.
7. Spend a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center – This open-air museum introduces visitors to a variety of South Pacific cultures through demonstrations, exhibits, and interactive activities. Areas of the facility are devoted to each of seven different native peoples, including the Maori, the Marquesas, the Fijians, the Samoans, the Tongans, the Tahitians, and the Hawaiians. Don’t miss the parade of boats and then the evening performance, Horizons, Where the Sea Meets the Sky.
8. Watch the Professional Surfers on the North Shore – The names, Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay, conjure up images of incredibly huge waves and fearless surfers tackling these giants. Here is where the world’s best surfers congregate to challenge their skills. Despite the fact that the winter time is when these gigantic waves form, the area is a showcase for this traditional Hawaiian sport anytime of the year.
9. Visit Shangri-La – Doris Duke’s mansion is now accessible to the public via small-group guided tours. The elaborate residence is a showcase of Middle Eastern and Islamic architecture and design.
10. Dole Plantation – This tribute to the pineapple, Hawaii’s most famous export, has a variety of activities for visitors as well as an opportunity to purchase or ship home many pineapple products. It’s a great place to bring kids because it claims to offer the world’s largest maze and other attractions designed especially for children.
Other sights considered:
King Kamehameha Statue